Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category
A reposting of a fascinating item regarding Ra Paulette.
As is the way of our interconnected world, I clicked on a link in a recent post over on Sue Dreamwalker’s blog that then took me to an item on a new blog site from Vision Keeper called World Metamorphosis. The item was about an American, Ra Paulette, who …
The American artist Ra Paulette has spent the last 10 years carving wondrous creations in the walls of a cave located in Northern New Mexico. For many years now, Paulette has walked to work into the hot desert, with only his faithful dog by his side. After much hard work, Paulette has finally allowed the public to view the incredible masterpiece he has been working on all of this time.
It all began with a mile long walk into the wilderness where Paulette discovered the cave. He has since transformed the everyday limestone walls into gorgeous hallways and spaces that are surprisingly full of light. Learn more about the man behind the carvings and check out the magnificent cave artwork here! (Source: Phoenix is Risen)
Then it was a ‘hop, skip and a jump’ to go across to Ra Paulette’s website, where one reads such glorious details as:
Manual labor is the foundation of my self expression. To do it well, to do it beautifully, is a “whole-person” activity, engaging mental and emotional strengths as well as physical strength.
When digging and excavating the caves I break down all the movements into their simplest parts and reassemble them into the most efficient patterns and strategies that will accomplish the task while maintaining bodily ease. Like a dancer, I “feel” the body and its movement in a conscious way.
I’m fond of calling this “the dance of digging”, and it is the secret of how this old man can get so much done.
Then words that are more poem than anything else:
the world within the earth and ourselves
My final and most ambitious project is both an environmental and social art project that uses solitude and the beauty of the natural world to create an experience that fosters spiritual renewal and personal well being. It is a culmination of everything I have learned and dreamed of in creating caves.
A mile walk in the wilderness becomes a pilgrimage journey to a hand dug, elaborately sculpted cave complex illuminated by the sun through multiple tunneled windows. The cave is both a shared ecumenical shrine and an otherworldly venue for presentations and performances designed to address issues of social welfare and the art of well being.
In social art, creating the work of art is not the objective in itself, as in an exhibit, but is a means to bring about social change. The response to the artwork is not merely left to its audience as an endpoint in the process but is an element in a larger encompassing creative process. In the analogy of art being one of the colors on the social artist’s palette, the canvas would be society itself, its social conditions in a particular location. In using the aesthetic to address societal suffering, social art is not content with merely decorating the world; its intent is to change it.
Changing the world is a tall order. Art doesn’t attempt to force change through direct action but to catalyze it by affecting the emotional basis from which change can occur.
Begging the question, “How can we change what we do before we change how we feel?” Its underlying premise is that when through wonder and the sense of beauty we move from the emotional realm of our desires and fears to the more expansive and deeper feelings of thanksgiving and appreciation of life with a sense of its sacredness, our actions will automatically be modified, creating a better world – ‘like magic’.
This is the magic of art, music, theatre, and of the beauty of the natural world. We need for that magic to play a more direct role in our lives.
Please, please read the rest of these wonderful thoughts and ideas
Will close with another photograph of Ra working inside the caves.
Time to reflect on the previous five chapters: Of change; Hope; Self-compassion; Goodness; Finding Happiness.
However, it wouldn’t be surprising if my opening sentence didn’t raise the odd question or two. Such as why a chapter that wants to round off the messages of change in thoughts and deeds is entitled The Brahma Viharas? What are the Brahma Viharas?
Let me offer my answers.
Long before I started into this book, I drew up a document that I called a Statement of Purpose (SoP). Writing such a document was prompted by an experienced author who made a link with me when I wrote the draft first half of this book, Part One: Man and Dog, under the umbrella of NaNoWriMo 2013. Or to give the organisation its full name: The National Novel Writing Month. I should explain for those unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo that each November, NaNoWriMo offers budding authors a compelling reason to sit down and write 50,000 words in one month. I should hasten to add that the word Novel is flexible and that non-fiction attempts are equally encouraged. Guess that’s pretty self-evident!
Back to my SoP. The purpose behind such a document is to provide a framework of what it is that you wish to say before plunging headlong in to the writing. My SoP included an Introduction, my intended Reading Audience, the themes of the five Sections and intended chapter headings.
Once I had that documented, I showed it to some close friends seeking reactions and recommendations. I included Jon Lavin. It was Jon who suggested that I include the Brahma Viharas.
As I researched the topic, I was moved by how relevant it was to what I was trying to say. This is what I discovered.
Firstly, from the website of the Brahma Viharas organisation I read this explanation:
The four brahma-viharas represent the most beautiful and hopeful aspects of our human nature. They are mindfulness practices that protect the mind from falling into habitual patterns of reactivity which belie our best intentions.
Also referred to as mind liberating practices, they awaken powerful healing energies which brighten and lift the mind to increasing levels of clarity. As a result, the boundless states of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative joy and equanimity manifest as forces of purification transforming the turbulent heart into a refuge of calm, focused awareness.
Those two short paragraphs are laden with wonderful ideas, all of which resonated with the theme of Part Four of this book. However, I still was looking for something that spelt out just exactly what are the four brahma-viharas. A further web search brought me to a site described as The Dhamma Encyclopedia and thence to Page Four from where I read: “The four Brahma Viharas are considered by Buddhism to be the four highest emotions. The word brahma literally means ‘highest’ or ‘superior.’“
A few sentences later, reading:
The Brahma Viharas are also known as the Four Divine Emotions or The Four Divine Abodes. They are the meditative states, thoughts, and actions to be cultivated in Buddhist meditation. They are the positive emotions and states that are productive and helpful to anyone of any religion or even to the one with no religion. The result will be a very nice and good person, free from hate and ill-will. Those who cultivate the brahma viharas are guaranteed to happiness. Those who further cultivate equanimity, may reach insightful states and wisdom of enlightenment experiences.
The Four Divine Emotions
1. Metta (Loving-kindness)
2. Karuna (Compassion)
3. Mudita (Joy with others)
4. Upekkha (Equanimity)
(from Anguttara Nikaya 3.65)
Loving-kindness, Compassion, Joy with others and Equanimity. A pathway to freedom from hate and ill-will. Who wouldn’t want to journey along such a pathway!
Yet it still didn’t envelope me in the way that I was expecting, so I continued with the research, and came across an essay by a Derek Beres under the title of The Trauma of Everyday Life. The essay had been published on The Big Think website and the opening lines tickled my interest; very much so. But first to find out a little more about the author: Derek Beres.
Derek Beres, a Los Angeles-based journalist and yoga instructor, looks at a range of issues affecting the world’s various spiritual communities in an attempt to sift through hyperbole and find truly universal solutions to prevalent issues facing humanity in the 21st century.
The opening lines of the essay answered an immediate question that was in my mind: “Like all major religions, there exists numerous ideas of what Buddhism is and how to practice it. Perhaps the hardest part about explaining Buddhism is that it’s nowhere near being a religion in the first place.”
Then me immediately warming to: “Rather it is a way of engaging and grappling with yourself and the world you live in, sans metaphysics and dogma.”
The essay then described much of the Buddha’s early days and his quest for a deep, inner meaning to life.
In Derek Beres’ words: “And so the Buddha set off, studying yoga and practicing extreme forms of asceticism, including nearly starving himself in hopes of transcending his body.” This eventually leading him to recognise, “ … trauma as a means of enlightenment, not a hindrance on the spiritual path. Awakening does not mean an end to difficulty; it means a change in the way those difficulties are met.”
“ … a change in the way those difficulties are met.” What better way than that to round off this theme of change in thoughts and deeds. Me wanting to say straightaway that these chapters have been a wonderful pathway of exploration for me and, so too, I hope they have been for you. There can be no doubt in my mind, and I know this is shared by countless others, that the future for mankind, if we continue on the same ways of recent times, is clear and obvious: massive levels of extinction of man and many other higher species.
This is the time for change. Not tomorrow; not some day; but now.
1016 words Copyright 2014: Paul Handover
I mean the first meeting between man and wolf.
Again, another long day of hammering away at the keyboard.
One of the items that I incorporated into ‘the book’ was a story told to me back in 2009. I had forgotten just how wonderful this true story was.
So it is repeated today. You will love it; of that I have no doubt!
An amazing true story of a relationship between a wild wolf and a man.
This is a story of a particular event in the life of Tim Woods told to me by his brother, DR. It revolves around the coming together of a man sleeping rough, with his dog, on Mingus Mountain, and a fully grown female Grey Wolf. Mingus is in the Black Hills mountain range between Cottonwood and Prescott in Arizona, USA.
DR and his brother, Tim, belong to a large family; there are 7 sons and 2 daughters. Tim had a twin brother, Tom, and DR knew from an early age that Tim was different.
As DR explained,
Tim was much more enlightened than the rest of us. I remember that Tim and Tom, as twin brothers, could feel each other in almost a mystical manner. I witnessed Tom grabbing his hand in pain when Tim stuck the point of his knife into his (Tim’s) palm. Stuff like that! Tim just saw more of life than most other people.
The incident involving the wolf was when Tim was in his late 40s and, as mentioned, was living in a rough shack on the mountain. The shack was simply a plywood shelter with an old couch and a few blankets for the cold nights. The dog was companion, guard and a means of keeping Tim in food; the dog was a great hunter. But Tim was no stranger to living in the wild.
Tim was ex-US Army and a great horseman. There was a time when he was up in the Superstition Mountains, sleeping rough, riding during the day. At night Tim would get the horse to lay down and Tim would sleep with his back next to the horse for warmth.
Anyway, Tim was up on Mingus Mountain using an old disk from an agricultural harrow as both a cook-pan and plate. After he had finished eating, Tim would leave his ‘plate’ outside his shack. It would be left out in the open over night.
Tim became aware that a creature was coming by and licking the plate clean and so Tim started to leave scraps of food on the plate. Then one night, Tim was awoken to to the noise of the owner of the ‘tongue’ and saw that it was a large, female gray wolf.
The wolf became a regular visitor and Tim became sure that the wolf, now having been given the name Luna by Tim, was aware that she was being watched by a human.
Over many, many months Luna built up sufficient trust in Tim that eventually she would take food from Tim’s outstretched hand. It was only now a matter of time before Luna started behaving more like a pet dog than the wild wolf that she was. The photo below is a scan from a traditional photograph and is unaltered.
From now on, Luna would stay the night with Tim and his dog, keeping watch over them.
DR also recalls,
I remember Tim being distraught because, without warning, Luna stopped coming by. Then a few months later back she was. Tim never did know what lay behind her absence but guessed it might have been because she went off to have pups.
Unfortunately, this wonderful tale does have a sad ending.
About two years ago, Tim lost his dog. He was awakened to hear a pack of coyotes yelping and his dog missing.
Then tragically some 6 months later Tim contracted a gall bladder infection. Slowly it became worse.
By the time he realised that it was sufficiently serious to require medical treatment, it was too late. Despite the best efforts of modern medicine, Tim died on June 25th, 2009, just 51 years young.
So if you are ever out on Mingus Mountain and hear the howl of a wolf, reflect that it could just be poor Luna calling out for her very special man friend.
With very grateful thanks to DR for sharing such a special story.
That journey towards stillness.
I didn’t intend this to be a theme for the week but sometimes one gives in to the forces of fate!
For after Monday’s post about making that inner journey to better know oneself, itself prompted by Rick Hanson’s Power of Stillness, came yesterday’s post on the power of love between a dog and his elderly owner.
So I was wondering what to write for today and wandering around the web looking for inspiration and, serendipitously, came across the blogsite The Commoner Princess. I had never heard of it before but there on the home page was a post published on the 21st October: Unlocking inner peace: forgiveness.
Here’s a flavour of that post.
Unlocking inner peace: forgiveness
POSTED ON 21 OCTOBER 2014
What hurts the most in life? Trying to make everybody happy. I think this is one of the ultimate life lessons. I remember having a specific unease when someone close to me wasn’t happy for some reason. Things got even more dramatic when I knew I was the cause in one way or another. Time taught me that this perspective wasn’t exactly the healthier approach to life. It is more than normal to care for the wellbeing of your loved ones, to stand by them in need or to try to have a zen relationship with them at all times. But oh boy, this is one of the hardest things to achieve. Detachment is hard enough when you are not directly involved, but when there are emotional ties, becoming the observer takes a lot of mindfulness, awareness, compassion and most importantly, a loooooot of restraint.
Even better, the post concluded like this:
Here is a beautiful meditation to send love and peace to the entire world. Sit in easy pose or any comfortable position of your choosing. Place your arms against your ribs, forearms in horizontal position, palms facing upwards. Start by taking long deep breaths. Breath in through the nose, exhale through your mouth. You can try the 5-5-5 technique as I call in. 5 seconds breathing in, 5 seconds holding, 5 seconds breathing out. Keep this cycle of breath for as long as you feel comfortable with it or until the end of the meditation.Thank you gabbyb.tv for your teachings.
May this be of service to you all!
Then closed with this video that you have to play in the background as you just think of stillness.
Wonder what tomorrow will bring?
As post sequels go, it doesn’t get much better than this!
So how to follow that today?
Chris Snuggs came to the rescue in sending me a link to a recent item in the UK newspaper The Daily Telegraph: Touching moment sick elderly man is reunited with his dog.
Luckily, rather than republish the Telegraph item without permission, the video and background information were over on YouTube.
Here it is:
Watch heart-melting moment stricken patient makes shock recovery after being reunited with pet dog.
Published on Oct 18, 2014
James Wathen, 73, and his beloved one-eyed Chihuahua, Bubba, both stopped eating for six weeks after they were separated.
This is the heartwarming moment a seriously ill elderly patient made a “tremendous recovery” thanks to an emotional reunion with his pet dog.
James Wathen, 73, looked doomed when his condition – related to an unknown illness – deteriorated after six weeks at Baptist Health Corbin hospital in Kentucky.
The pensioner was so ill he could barely speak and had stopped eating.
However, all that changed when he managed to whisper to nurses that he was missing his one-eyed Chihuahua Bubba.
His revelation sparked a desperate search for the beloved dog, which was being kept at the Knox-Whitely Animal Shelter.
Pets are banned at the hospital, but nurses managed to sneak Bubba in and then filmed the emotional reunion.
“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” the hospital’s chief nursing officer Kimberly Probus told WKTV. In a further twist, Mary-Ann Smyth, from the animal shelter, said the dog had also stopped eating when the pair were separated.
“They didn’t think James was going to make it,” she told NBC. “He [Mr Wathen] has done a complete turnaround. He’s speaking, he’s sitting up, he’s eating.
He doesn’t look like the same guy, and the dog is eating and doing better now, too.”
The hospital has allowed Bubba to visit his owner several times since, with staff saying they have both made a “tremendous recovery”.
It’s what this blog is all about. There is no limit to what our dogs offer us; love being at the top of the list.
I’m referring to the journey within.
Last Friday I offered a post under the title of The power of stillness. It was founded on a recent essay seen in the newsletter called Just One Thing published, freely, by Dr. Rick Hanson. Here’s the closing paragraph of that essay:
Wherever you find it, enjoy stillness and let it feed you. It’s a relief from the noise and bustle, a source of clarity and peace. Give yourself the space, the permission, to be still – at least in your mind – amidst those who are busy. To use a traditional saying:
May that which is still
be that in which your mind delights.
There’s a very strong correlation between finding that stillness within and having the self-awareness and peace that comes from knowing who one is. Seems such an easy ‘walk in the park’ to know ourselves but most times it is far from that. Many are the ways that we hide who we really are! ;-)
However the rewards are everything. Knowing and liking oneself offers the richest scenery of any journey.
All of which constitutes my way of introducing a truly wonderful poem from Sue Dreamwalker, a great friend of this blog.
Come with me on a journey it starts inside my head
Create a place to dwell from all the Fear and dread
Close your eyes and behind them create a perfect vision
Build a garden full of beauty get ready for your transition
Sit upon the grass as sky lark sings above
Hold out your hand to feed the many cooing Doves
See the babbling stream as the young fawn drinks her fill
And listen to the Woodpecker’s distant woodland drill
Watch the tiny fishes as the light glistens from their scales
You’re now adrift in the ocean, as you watch the Humpback Whales
You listen to their song a lament as old as time
Each breath takes you deeper as your Spirit begins to climb
Now you are on a mountain its top all crisp and white
You fly among the Eagles suspended in effortless flight
Thermals take you higher as you travel within its ring
Higher yet you travel, more peace to feel and bring
Through the clouds you break into outer-space you speed
Looking back at a Blue Planet which provided all your needs
Weightless and suspended no longer feeling Form
You fly around the heavens exploring each star born.
Filled up now with knowledge no mortal Words could speak
You return back to your garden upon your grassy seat
A new sense of Peace surrounds you as you open up your eyes
You can return in an instant, just open up your mind.
We can travel anywhere we wish when we just close our eyes and allow our mind to relax in a meditation.. Breathe deep and create your perfect space…. The above poem I wrote last week as I recollected part of a meditation.. The view I have included is one taken on a regular walk we often take..Have a fabulous week.
Thank you for Reading
What can one say? All that comes to mind is stay on your own journey and never stop enjoying the views.
Much as I respect Mr. Monbiot’s views, I hope he is wrong in this respect.
I have long admired the writings of George Monbiot and, as often as not, have republished his essays in this place.
But an essay by George that was published in the UK Guardian newspaper yesterday portrays a frightening picture of modern-day Britain. It was called Falling Apart and is republished, with George’s permission, today.
I want to offer a personal response to the essay, that immediately follows George’s piece.
October 14, 2014
Competition and individualism are forcing us into a devastating Age of Loneliness
By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 15th October 2014
What do we call this time? It’s not the information age: the collapse of popular education movements left a void now filled by marketing and conspiracy theories(1). Like the stone age, iron age and space age, the digital age says plenty about our artefacts but little about society. The anthropocene, in which humans exert a major impact on the biosphere, fails to distinguish this century from the previous twenty. What clear social change marks out our time from those that precede it? To me it’s obvious. This is the Age of Loneliness.
When Thomas Hobbes claimed that in the state of nature, before authority arose to keep us in check, we were engaged in a war “of every man against every man”(2), he could not have been more wrong. We were social creatures from the start, mammalian bees, who depended entirely on each other. The hominims of East Africa could not have survived one night alone. We are shaped, to a greater extent than almost any other species, by contact with others. The age we are entering, in which we exist apart, is unlike any that has gone before.
Three months ago we read that loneliness has become an epidemic among young adults(3). Now we learn that it is just as great an affliction of older people. A study by Independent Age shows that severe loneliness in England blights the lives of 700,000 men and 1.1m women over 50(4), and is rising with astonishing speed.
Ebola is unlikely ever to kill as many people as this disease strikes down. Social isolation is as potent a cause of early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day(5); loneliness, research suggests, is twice as deadly as obesity(6). Dementia, high blood pressure, alcoholism and accidents – all these, like depression, paranoia, anxiety and suicide, become more prevalent when connections are cut(7,8). We cannot cope alone.
Yes, factories have closed, people travel by car instead of buses, use YouTube rather than the cinema. But these shifts alone fail to explain the speed of our social collapse. These structural changes have been accompanied by a life-denying ideology, which enforces and celebrates our social isolation. The war of every man against every man – competition and individualism in other words – is the religion of our time, justified by a mythology of lone rangers, sole traders, self-starters, self-made men and women, going it alone. For the most social of creatures, who cannot prosper without love, there is now no such thing as society, only heroic individualism. What counts is to win. The rest is collateral damage.
British children no longer aspire to be train drivers or nurses, more than a fifth now say they “just want to be rich”: wealth and fame are the sole ambitions of 40% of those surveyed(9). A government study in June revealed that Britain is the loneliness capital of Europe(10). We are less likely than other Europeans to have close friends or to know our neighbours. Who can be surprised, when everywhere we are urged to fight like stray dogs over a dustbin?
We have changed our language to reflect this shift. Our most cutting insult is loser. We no longer talk about people. Now we call them individuals. So pervasive has this alienating, atomising term become that even the charities fighting loneliness use it to describe the bipedal entities formerly known as human beings(11). We can scarcely complete a sentence without getting personal. Personally speaking (to distinguish myself from a ventriloquist’s dummy), I prefer personal friends to the impersonal variety and personal belongings to the kind that don’t belong to me. Though that’s just my personal preference, otherwise known as my preference.
One of the tragic outcomes of loneliness is that people turn to their televisions for consolation: two-fifths of older people now report that the one-eyed god is their principal company(12). This self-medication enhances the disease. Research by economists at the University of Milan suggests that television helps to drive competitive aspiration(13). It strongly reinforces the income-happiness paradox: the fact that, as national incomes rise, happiness does not rise with them.
Aspiration, which increases with income, ensures that the point of arrival, of sustained satisfaction, retreats before us. The researchers found that those who watch a lot of television derive less satisfaction from a given level of income than those who watch only a little. Television speeds up the hedonic treadmill, forcing us to strive even harder to sustain the same level of satisfaction. You have only to think of the wall-to-wall auctions on daytime TV, Dragon’s Den, the Apprentice and the myriad forms of career-making competition the medium celebrates, the generalised obsession with fame and wealth, the pervasive sense, in watching it, that life is somewhere other than where you are, to see why this might be.
So what’s the point? What do we gain from this war of all against all? Competition drives growth, but growth no longer makes us wealthier. Figures published this week show that while the income of company directors has risen by more than a fifth, wages for the workforce as a whole have fallen in real terms over the past year (14). The bosses now earn – sorry, I mean take – 120 times more than the average full-time worker. (In 2000, it was 47 times). And even if competition did make us richer, it would make us no happier, as the satisfaction derived from a rise in income would be undermined by the aspirational impacts of competition.
The top 1% now own 48% of global wealth(15), but even they aren’t happy. A survey by Boston College of people with an average net worth of $78m found that they too are assailed by anxiety, dissatisfaction and loneliness(16). Many of them reported feeling financially insecure: to reach safe ground, they believed, they would need, on average, about 25% more money. (And if they got it? They’d doubtless need another 25%). One respondent said he wouldn’t get there until he had $1 billion in the bank.
For this we have ripped the natural world apart, degraded our conditions of life, surrendered our freedoms and prospects of contentment to a compulsive, atomising, joyless hedonism, in which, having consumed all else, we start to prey upon ourselves. For this we have destroyed the essence of humanity: our connectedness.
Yes, there are palliatives, clever and delightful schemes like Men in Sheds and Walking Football developed by charities for isolated older people(17). But if we are to break this cycle and come together once more, we must confront the world-eating, flesh-eating system into which we have been forced.
Hobbes’s pre-social condition was a myth. But we are now entering a post-social condition our ancestors would have believed impossible. Our lives are becoming nasty, brutish and long.
“Our lives are becoming nasty, brutish and long.“
As closing sentences go, that’s about as tough as it gets.
Nevertheless, I’m going to offer a perspective, something that George doesn’t mention. That is the importance of community.
Back in 2008 BBC Timewatch screened a programme about the revelations that came from the latest archaeological dig at Stonehenge, near Amesbury in Wiltshire in England. I wrote about the programme over four years ago: Stonehenge – a place of healing.
Stonehenge is one of Britain’s most famous historical sites, deservedly so because Stonehenge was one of the most important places in ancient Europe.
But evidence from a dig that was authorised in 2008 has shown that not only is Stonehenge a much older site of human habitation but that it’s purpose is altogether different to what has been assumed. It was, indeed, a healing place, possibly the most important in Europe.
If you would like to watch that Timewatch episode, and it is highly recommended, then someone has neatly uploaded it to YouTube.
The programme clearly offers evidence from the carbon-dating of seeds buried under the famous blue stones that dates this settlement to some 9,000 years BP. The detailed examination of ancient humans buried nearby indicates they came to Stonehenge with a range of diseases, many terminal in nature.
So back to George Monbiot’s essay and the element that screams out at me.
We have lost sight of the huge healing benefits that come from old-fashioned, shoulder-to-shoulder communities.
Not to mention the healing properties of a loving dog or two in one’s life!